Moms and babies in Michigan receive the gold-standard of care through Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association’s community-based doula program ~ via SF Bay View

Read – Moms and babies in Michigan receive the gold-standard of care through Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association’s community-based doula program

“Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA) in Detroit, Mich., has successfully received national accreditation through HealthConnect One’s (HC One) Community-Based Doula Accreditation Program. BMBFA underwent a rigorous process in which the HealthConnect One Accreditation Team reviewed the organization’s existing Community-Based Doula Program to ensure high-quality implementation.

“Community-based doulas play an important role in helping decrease maternal and infant mortality rates and increase breastfeeding rates. These women are trained to provide peer support to other women in their communities throughout pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.

“BMBFA’s accreditation from HealthConnect One comes at a time when maternal and infant mortality is skyrocketing in the African-American community due to racial disparities in the healthcare system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women is three to four times higher than those of white women.” This is impacting the health of African-American women at an alarming rate, causing a maternal health epidemic. The accreditation means that BMBFA is providing Detroit mothers with the highest quality care.”

by Kiddada Green, published by the San Francisco Bay View, a National Black Newspaper, on May 16, 2019

Moms and Babies in Michigan Receive the Gold-Standard of Care Through BMBFA’s Community-Based Doula Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts:
Diana Pando, HC One
Communications Coordinator
312.498.4067
dpando@healthconnectone.org

Kiddada Green, BMBFA
Founding Executive Director
313.400.1215
KiddadaG@BMBFA.org

Moms and Babies in Michigan Receive the Gold-Standard of Care Through Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association’s Community-Based Doula Program

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA) in Detroit, MI has successfully received national accreditation through HealthConnect One’s (HC One) Community-Based Doula Accreditation Program. BMBFA underwent a rigorous process in which the HealthConnect One Accreditation Team reviewed the organization’s existing Community-Based Doula Program to ensure high-quality implementation. Community-based doulas play an important role in helping decrease maternal and infant mortality rates and increase breastfeeding rates. These women are trained to provide peer support to other women in their communities throughout pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting.

BMBFA’s accreditation from HealthConnect One comes at a time when maternal and infant mortality is skyrocketing in the African-American community due to racial disparities in the healthcare system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women is three to four times higher than those of white women.” This is impacting the health of African-American women at an alarming rate and has created a maternal health epidemic. The accreditation means that BMBFA is providing Detroit mothers the highest quality care.

“The accreditation gives us a boost towards creating a sustainable program with the ability to build a labor market for community-based doulas. We continue to positively impact our community, providing respectable service and honorable care to Detroit families,” said Kiddada Green, BMBFA Founding Executive Director. “We understand the level of intimacy involved in pregnancy and birth and we are honored each and every time that a family allows us join in their birth experience.”

BMBFA’s Community-Based Doula Home Visiting Program has assisted in more than one hundred births. Their data from 2015 to 2017 demonstrates the importance of their program in African-American communities. The program boasts 1100+ prenatal and postpartum encounters, 100% breastfeeding initiation rate, 100% regular prenatal care, 99% healthy birth weight, 99% full-term babies and 0 infant deaths.

“I believe that any services offered in the community should be dedicated to the whole family, not just the individual. My Community-Based Doula from Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association not only assisted me, but she also supported my partner, my mother and even my sisters during my birth experience,” said Cherry Tolbert, Community-Based Doula program participant.

The transformative effect of doulas in communities has been spotlighted in a federally funded study in 2014. The study found that 87 percent of community-based doula clients were breastfeeding at six weeks, compared with 61 percent of a similar sample; 72 percent were still at it when their babies were three months old, compared with 48 percent of the broader sample.

HC One’s Community-Based Doula Accreditation Program (CBDAP) is designed to help organizations implement a high-quality Community-Based Doula program. “The goal of accreditation is to build greater fidelity to HC One’s evidence-based community-based doula model; therefore, improving quality of service and outcomes for program participants,” said Tikvah Wadley, HC One Program Manager. HC One’s first accreditation was Open Arms Perinatal Services in Washington State with the goal to provide mothers with the quality care they deserve.

This unique, innovative program model works because it provides extended, intensive support to families throughout pregnancy, during labor and childbirth, and in the early months of parenting in communities that face high risks of negative birth and developmental outcomes. Recently, HC One’s program model was profiled in the 2018 Home Visiting Yearbook. The publication compiles early childhood home visiting key data and presents a comprehensive picture available at the national and state levels.

Upon accreditation with HC One, BMBFA’s Community-Based Doula program is recognized publicly as setting the standards for high-quality doula care. Accredited organizations are positioned to attract the attention of funding sources which are committed to high-quality implementation of Community-Based Doula Programs nationwide, and BMBFA will gain additional exposure as a leader in their field through training and collaborative opportunities with HC One.

The Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association Community-Based Doula program is generously funded by the following foundations: W.K. Kellogg Foundation, March of Dimes Michigan, The Jewish Fund and Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

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About Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association

BMBFA is focused on reducing racial inequities in breastfeeding support for black families. Since 2007, BMBFA carries out its mission by way of direct service, training/education & advocacy. For more information, visit http://blackmothersbreastfeeding.org/

About HealthConnect One

HealthConnect One®  (HC One) is the national leader in advancing respectful, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting. Organizations can contact HC One about their highly successful approach, replicating their program, or to collaborate in other ways to address birth equity. For more information, visit www.healthconnectone.org.

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I am so much stronger than I have been led to believe image

Recuperando Tradiciones de Parto Latinas

–> In English <–

¡Hola! ¡Soy Cassie, madre mexicana y Doula de la ciudad de Chicago! Tengo un niño aventurero al que siempre mantengo cerquita de mí. Somos inseparables y nuestro vínculo floreció inmediatamente al nacer. Aquí les comparto un poco sobre nuestro recorrido juntos…

Soy tan determinada como mi chiquito, cuando decidí que quería tener un parto sin medicamentos, mi familia y amigos se sorprendieron.

Después de leer e investigar mucho, pensé: “Mi abuela tuvo 6 hijos, entonces yo podré con este único parto”. Consideré la fortaleza de las mujeres que vinieron antes de a mí y su fuerza. Pensé en otras madres a las que se les considera locas por querer un parto natural. Así que decidí rodearme de historias positivas de parto.

Primero, cambié a cuidados de Partería. Mientras tanto, las náuseas matutinas me estaban afectando horriblemente durante mucho tiempo. Decidí probar remedios naturales, como té y vitaminas. Alrededor del sexto mes me empecé a sentir más como si fuese yo misma. PERO ya era mi sexto mes de embarazo; tenía que ponerme al día en mi camino hacia un parto “natural”.

Tomé una clase de educación prenatal, encontré una Doula de partos y comencé a leer sobre técnicas de confort. Me atrajo la idea de moverme durante todo el trabajo de parto y vi videos de mamás bailando salsa durante las primeras etapas. Aunque mis movimientos de salsa nunca surgieron en el hospital, me reconfortó saber que no estaba sola en mis sueños de tener un parto natural.

El tiempo que invertí en prepararme para el parto fue un período que tomé para mí misma. Fue un tiempo que necesitaba para recuperar mi confianza, revisar recursos y examinar toda la información basada en evidencia que tenía a mi disposición. Este espacio de tiempo es absolutamente esencial para nosotros como familias Latinx que van a dar a luz.

Las nuevas mamás necesitan una comunidad de apoyo incondicional para reafirmar la fortaleza y la información que ya poseen. Yo he visto el poder que tiene un grupo de mujeres que atiende los miedos, las preocupaciones y las preguntas generales de una madre. Esto puede infundir confianza que guía a la madre a través de los momentos difíciles que acompañan la maternidad. Podemos y debemos preservar estas tradiciones culturales al estar física y emocionalmente presentes para nuestras hermanas. Nuestro apoyo prenatal, durante el parto y durante la “cuarentena” le da poder a la voz de la madre.

Al reflexionar sobre el pasado, como madre y Doula de parto, estoy orgullosa que me lancé al vacío y busqué la información que necesitaba. Reintegrar ciertas tradiciones—remedios naturales, apoyo prenatal y laboral de otras mujeres e incluso utilizar un rebozo para levantar mi vientre al final del embarazo, me permitió volverme a conectar con algo que yo deseaba pero que no podía describir: una fuerte conexión con mis raíces que habían estado allí todo el tiempo.

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Dónde encontrarme:
www.loveyourdoula.org  /  Facebook  /  Instagram

Afiliaciones:
Healthy Families en Advocate Illinois Masonic (tel: 773.296.5943)
Chicago Latina Moms
Chicago Volunteer Doulas

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Ilustraciones de Cameron Light

Puede seguir a Cameron en Instagram @stellar.bear o en Facebook: Stellarbear. Para comprar cualquier trabajo, encargar una pieza nueva o para obtener más información sobre el nuevo conjunto de tarjetas de afirmaciones de Cameron (del cuál forma parte esta imagen), no dude en ponerse en contacto con Cameron a través de las redes sociales o por correo electrónico en enlightenedcam @ gmail. com.

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Nota del editor: Gracias a Cassie por compartir su historia como parte de Birth Equity Leadership Academy 2018 Serie del Mes de la Herencia Hispana/Latina, “Reclamando Nuestras Tradiciones Sobre La Lactancia y El Parto.”

BELA Community Project Awards

We are thrilled to announce the 2018-2019 Community Project Awards made through our Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA)TM and supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation!

These awards provide financial assistance and technical support for the following BELATM community leaders’ initiatives and projects:

Delmar Bauta

Delmar Bauta is a disabled, afro-latinx, queer, non-binary transgender birthworker, advocating for families in South Florida. They began attending births as an interpreter for the Deaf and then as an advocate for teen parents in 2000. Since then, their mission has been to advance birth justice, particularly for Black, Brown, immigrant, queer/trans and disabled communities.

The Leadership Pipeline Project will prepare and support people of color (POC) to assume leadership positions and advance birth equity within national and local midwifery organizations. The goal is to restore midwifery to a more inclusive model in which the needs of clients, midwives, and students of color are centered.

Award Amount:  $15,000

Ileana Berrios

Ileana Berrios is an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) working with families in underserved communities since 2007, when she began as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor at the local WIC office in Philadelphia. She has since established Breastfeeding Latinas, a social media lactation support and consultation and home visiting private practice, and in collaboration with Naima Black from Maternity Care Coalition, Ileana co-wrote a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Training Curriculum which has been used to train more than 45 women of color in underserved communities every year.

The vision for this project is that all families receive robust breastfeeding and childbirth support throughout the critical period of pregnancy through age one in a manner that enables lifelong health and wellbeing, through collaboration with Northeastern Temple University Medical Clinic and Episcopal Medical Clinic, and with the support of Maternity Care Coalition’s Community Breastfeeding and Doula Network.

Award Amount:  $15,000

George Wesley Bugg

Wesley Bugg is a 2016 graduate of the University of Miami School of Law (JD, LLM), and 2013 graduate of Emory University (BA). He is currently the deputy director of Court Vision International Inc., a nonprofit that promotes youth advocacy and conflict resolution, and he serves Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE) as the Legal Compliance Officer and financial assistant, aggregated into his role as Financial and Legal Operation Coordinator.

This project will help women, men, and their families to feel empowered to seek, receive, analyze, and establish culturally competent childbirth and breastfeeding information, resources and tools in their communities.

Award Amount:  $15,000

Monica Esparza

Monica Esparza has been doing breastfeeding work for more than 8 years by serving families in her community as a breastfeeding peer counselor. Currently the Deputy Director of the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force, Monica believes in centering community members and families as experts in their own lives and communities and establishing supportive systems where all families are able to achieve their own breastfeeding goals.

This project will cultivate connections between hospitals, clinics, and community programs in New Mexico, to increase understanding of existing services, to simplify referrals, and to ensure families have continuing care after hospital discharge.

Award Amount:  $4,594

Carmen L Green

Carmen Green is National Training Director for the National Birth Equity Collaborative (NBEC), where she has been responsible for partner communications, research, content creation and community engagement since 2015. She also serves as a CBPP State Policy Fellow focusing on health and Medicaid in Louisiana at the Louisiana Budget Project, and leads a business, Hazel Green, LLC, to assist grassroots programs in advocacy through data and storytelling.

The Birth Story Project will create an outlet for healing for mothers who have experienced trauma and for birth workers who have experienced birth trauma, and will identify where birthing women are feeling supported to uplift what’s working and what’s failing for birthing women in Louisiana. The project is designed to create a strong collaborative foundation of community voices, birth workers, healers and social justice advocates who hold providers and hospital systems accountable for birth trauma and provide tools for sustained policy change.

Award Amount:  $8,000

Jacqueline Lambert

Jacqueline Lambert is a community breastfeeding peer counselor and Executive Director of Let’s Talk Baby.

This project will create a space where women of color and their families can come and receive prenatal information, childbirth education, and breastfeeding support in a non-threatening atmosphere, to achieve the goals they set for themselves and to talk about issues they face and meet with other moms.

Award Amount:  $7,000

Carrie Murphy

Carrie Murphy is a birth doula and freelance writer living and working in Albuquerque, NM. Passionate about equity and diversity in reproductive health, she is also a founder of the UNM Birth Companion program, which provides free volunteer doulas to incarcerated, uninsured and Medicaid families birthing at University of New Mexico Hospital.

The New Mexico Doula Association is an inclusive, birth-justice focused organization that seeks to educate about and advocate for the role of the doula in the community and maternity care settings, while working to make doula care more accessible to and equitable for families throughout the state of New Mexico. Its founders believe that all New Mexican families have the right to affordable, non-judgmental, and culturally-competent support in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

Award Amount:  $2,460

To-wen Tseng

To-wen Tseng is a freelance journalist who writes about parenting, education, family life style, and maternal/infant health for a variety of publications. Prior to freelancing, To-wen was a talk show host at KSCI-TV and then a correspondent at World Journal. She got a rude awakening when returned to her previous newsroom after giving birth to her first child in 2013, and since then, she’s been dedicating her career to advocating for family-friendly policy and gender equity at the workplace, blogging about breastfeeding as a human right, and speaking out about breastfeeding barriers.

This project introduces the newly founded Asian Breastfeeding Taskforce to its local community and seeks to normalize breastfeeding in the Asian Community, combatting stigma with an empowering photo shoot and online gallery.

Award Amount:  $5,594

Nicole Marie White, CPM

Nicole Marie White is a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and an activist who has caught babies in a variety of settings and in several languages around the world. She is Director of State Advocacy for the MANA board as well as liaison to the Access and Equity division, was appointed by the Governor to the State Board of Midwifery in Michigan, and received a 2012 fellowship in Detroit to work on public policy surrounding the inequitable rate of African American maternal and infant mortality.

Birth Detroit is committed to reducing infant and maternal mortality and morbidity in the city of Detroit. Everyone has been born. Birth is at once an ordinary and extraordinary event. With a rich curriculum for prenatal classes, active and respectful education and engagement, Birth Detroit fuses the midwifery model with social advocacy to create safer, healthier, more educated families and communities through an innovative mobile clinic model.

Award Amount:  $7,350

Black Breastfeeding in Philadelphia, a Q&A

In honor of Black Breastfeeding Week, breastfeeding advocate Faith Peterson asks Rudina Jackson, a certified lactation consultant and doula, to share her own experience with breastfeeding.

FP: What has been your experience with breastfeeding? 

RJ: My experience with breastfeeding has been an adventure. I have overcome a lot of nursing difficulties. I have three children, a 4-year-old and 1-year-old twins, all boys. I am breastfeeding all three children.

I practice natural child weaning. When my children are ready to wean, they will. The 4-year-old goes days without wanting to nurse but is still not ready to completely stop, and that is okay. I enjoy breastfeeding, but it is not always enjoyable. But in times of aversion, I remind myself they will only need milk for a short while, and one day they won’t need it at all.

FP: Why was it important for you to breastfeed?

RJ: It is important to me to breastfeed because this is natural and what is healthiest for my children. Breastmilk saves lives and the infant mortality rate in our community is at an all-time high. It is important to me because I want to raise sons who support women and encourage them to breastfeed their own children and to show them there is nothing shameful or nasty about breastfeeding.

FP: What are some of the structural and interpersonal supports that you have in place that make you feel supported?

RJ: My sisters both breastfed until 3.5 years old. They made that decision to breastfeed even though they were never really exposed to breastfeeding. I have always had the support of my sisters and my mother. (I was the only child of my siblings who she breastfed).

My partner has always supported breastfeeding our children, and that’s important to have your spouse support your breastfeeding journey and defend you to those who have never breastfed or are uneducated on breastfeeding . Also, when my oldest was 10 months, a friend added me to an online breastfeeding group, Breastfeeding Support Group for Black Moms. Through this group, I learn so much about breastfeeding and pumping. The group had about 3,000 members at the time, and now it’s over 52,000 members of black women supporting one another in their nursing journey. Also, through this journey, I have become a Lactation Consultant (CLC) and Community Birth Doula and have met many women like Jabina Coleman and Ileana Berrios who are IBCLCs in Philadelphia serving to support and encourage Black and Latina women in breastfeeding.

FP: What are the situations, structures, and resources that make you NOT feel supported?

RJ: Honestly, nothing can make me not feel supported. I had some doubts nursing my oldest in public but those quickly vanished when I realized I would rather argue with a stranger than starve my baby. I went into nursing my twins with the idea that breastfeeding is the only way. Although I struggled in the beginning with latching and not pumping, I was encouraged by my Doula Mia that things would get better and they did.

FP: Were there any times you felt that your current community does not have what you need or needed to make breastfeeding a better experience?

RJ: I do believe that my community lacks education on breastfeeding. This is why I strive to educate women in my community with facts and wisdom on breast milk, so they do not unintentionally hinder their own or another woman’s breastfeeding relationship with incorrect information. Being a mother of twins, I did have a hard time finding other women of color in my direct community that strictly breastfed twins.

FP: Is there anything else you would like to say to encourage a mom who is struggling with breastfeeding?

RJ: You are enough. It’s okay to get frustrated. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but never quit on your worst day.

Faith Peterson, M.D. is the founder of the Philadelphia Birth Equity Project and a leader in HealthConnect One’s Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA).

2017 Durbin Community Health Worker of the Year: Yvette McKee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact:
Wandy Hernandez
312-513-8889
wandyhdz@healthconnectone.org

2017 Durbin Community Health Worker of the Year: Yvette McKee

CHICAGO – HealthConnect One is pleased to announce that the 2017 Durbin Community Health Worker of the Year Award goes to Yvette McKee, a community-based doula from Open Arms Perinatal Services in Seattle, Washington. Established by HealthConnect One in 2014 and championed by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), this award recognizes a Community Health Worker who has made a tremendous impact on maternal and child health.

“Ms. McKee embodies the true essence of community support,” writes Director of Programs, Michelle Morse, who nominated her for this award. “She is thoughtful and caring and her commitment always shines through. She single-handedly shaped the Birth Doula Services Program, which matches over 200 moms who are at and below the federal poverty line with volunteer and paid doulas.” This past summer, Yvette led a Community-Based Doula Training which brought together members of the African-American, Somali, Native American and Latinx/Latina communities to train as birth doulas. “Yvette brought humor, wisdom, expertise and a deep sense of community to each of these trainings,” says Morse.

Doulas and other Community Health Workers around the world assist individuals and communities to adopt healthy behaviors; they provide social support, informal counseling, and information on available resources; they may gather data to help identify community health needs; they advocate for individuals and community health; and they are trusted members of the communities they serve, often bridging cultural and language barriers to support their clients in communicating with health care systems.

The Award is named after Senator Richard J. Durbin from Illinois, who has consistently demonstrated his support for community health workers, bringing public awareness to the value of community health workers. “Doulas and community health workers are invaluable resources in helping ensure that every baby, mother, and family can thrive,” Durbin said. “It’s been heartening to see the progress HealthConnect One has made over the years in expanding its doula program to more than 50 communities across the country.  I am honored to have this award named after me, and I am pleased to congratulate Yvette McKee on being named the 2017 Community Health Worker of the Year.”

HealthConnect One has collaborated with over 50 communities in 20 states, and pioneered their award-winning community-based doula program model in 1996. Open Arms Perinatal Services was the first site to be accredited for replicating this model.

The 2017 Durbin Community Health Worker of the Year Award will be presented as part of HealthConnect One’s 30th anniversary celebration, 30 Years of Making Waves:

June 15, 2017 – 6:00 PM
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago IL 60611
Photo Opportunities Available

HealthConnect One® is the national leader in advancing respectful, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting: www.healthconnectone.org

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Tikvah Wadley

Who are the Hidden Figures in the Black Birth World?

Hidden Figures is a movie that portrays women of color who worked at NASA with very important roles — yet were not acknowledged for their wisdom or their contributions to NASA’s great work.

At HealthConnect One, we believe that every community has its own leaders, who know the community’s language and hold solutions for the community’s challenges. A majority of the time, these leaders are not recognized for the important roles they play or for their contributions to the world of birth. I think of these leaders as Hidden Figures in the community and we would like to acknowledge them during Black History Month.

For example, if you read the questions below and someone comes to your mind, feel free to acknowledge!Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji Henson) was responsible for the calculations for an astronaut’s takeoff and landing but she was unable to use the restroom where her colleagues were and was forced to go to another building which was much further away.

  • Has there ever been a time you supported a mother and she wanted to deliver at a certain hospital but she wasn’t able to do so?
  • What did you do about it?
  • Were you able to turn this around for the mother? Was anyone?
  • Was there ever a time you were supporting a mother who wanted certain services but was unable to receive them because she had public insurance?
  • What did you do about it?
  • Were you able to turn this around for the mother? Was anyone?

Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer) was performing the job of a supervisor but she wasn’t recognized as a supervisor — she wasn’t “professional enough.”

  • Breastfeeding Peer Counselors support mothers in their communities and help them with the very first hours of life when the baby comes — and in some cases, with the very first latch. However, they are not seen as “professional enough” to be recognized as vital to their community. Does this make you think of anyone?
  • Can you remember a time when you helped a mother continue to breastfeed when she wanted to give up? How did you turn her negative into a positive?
  • Can you remember a time when you were disrespected and/or devalued as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor? How did this make you feel? How did you turn this negative situation into a positive?

Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe) went before a judge to present her case concerning racial equity and became NASA’s first black woman engineer.

  • What were you the first of?
  • Breastfeeding?
  • Going to college and graduating – were you the first in your family?
  • Were you the first to give birth in your family or community without interventions? Were you the first to become a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor or Community-Based Doula in your community, although it was unheard of?
  • Do you know someone who was the first to do any of these things?

Tikvah Wadley, AAS, CD(DONA), BDT (DONA), is a Certified Doula and Birth Doula Trainer through DONA, and serves as Project Coordinator for HealthConnect One. She has worked in the community for nearly 20 years and believes in empowering women in today’s society.

For Black History Month, we’re offering a platform for Black allies, partners and friends to share about the hidden figures in your communities. Have someone you want to recognize? Please share!

We will publish responses right here on February 28th. Thank you.

“History is the sum total of what all of us do on a daily basis,” says Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the book, “Hidden Figures,” in a Smithsonian article last Fall.

“We think of capital “H” history as being these huge figures — George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Martin Luther King.” Even so, she explains, “you go to bed at night, you wake up the next morning, and then yesterday is history. These small actions in some ways are more important or certainly as important as the individual actions by these towering figures.”

~ Source: The True Story of “Hidden Figures,” the Forgotten Women Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Maya Wei-Haas

Cultivating Change: Rachel

Latino-Hispanic Heritage Month 2016 is here, and HealthConnect One is honored to amplify the voices of our Hispanic and Latinx allies, as they share about changes they are making in their lives and communities.

¡Mes de la herencia Hispano / Latino  ya está aquí! Nos encantaría que te unas a nosotros para celebrar del 15 de Septiembre al 15 de Octubre de 2016.  Nuestro tema este año es el Cultivando Cambio: los Latinos y los Hispanos hablan acerca de un cambio personal y de su comunidad.

r-blog-w-husbandI am a Mexican-American born in Chicago. My initial connection to HealthConnect One was my mother, Helen. She came on as admin personnel in the early 90’s when it was just the Executive Director, Rachel, and Program Director, Jere, in an office not much bigger than a small bedroom. Having a connection and growing up with the work of the Chicago Breastfeeding Taskforce – which is now HealthConnect One – has deeply impacted how I perceive breastfeeding and how I am an advocate.

Before I became a mom, my mother took me to her friend’s house while I was on leave, during my time in the Navy. Her son was close to 4 years of age and wanted to nurse. She nursed him. I remember feeling a sense of repulsion thinking this kid is WAY too old for that! Yes, I knew breastfeeding was all fine and dandy, but seriously – too much! Some of you out there reading this may be thinking something similar. I was the type of person whose face showed every expression and emotion. (My apologies, Rose, if that ever came across. You are a shining example!) I know I said something to my mother and I’m sure I blew off whatever she said. I was young and naïve.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I’m a mom. I had a goal of breastfeeding for 6 months and I was very fortunate to work for a company that was supportive of my pumping needs. I didn’t really have any negative thoughts or perceptions of formula. I knew breast was best, so I nursed pretty well for 6 months, supplementing with formula when we were out and about. For the next 3 months, I pretty much nursed at night only, feeding my baby formula and food the rest of the time. Yay! I was a great breastfeeding mom.

I ended up going through a divorce. I traveled back to Chicago with my breastfeeding success and did some work with HealthConnect One. I received my doula certification and gained so much knowledge! I still remember the trainer, Beth Isaacs, talking about how our bodies work and though we don’t always make the healthiest food choices, the baby will always get the best from us. That has always stayed with me. I went back to school for 2 semesters and breastfeeding seemed all around me. I wrote papers on it in my Anthropology class and my child development classes and my English class. I think it was after that doula class and training that I became a gung-ho advocate!

So, then on to child #2 (and second husband). I was having a lot of issues with latching. I wept. I was so excited for this breastfeeding opportunity after all I had learned. I dealt with a few different lactation consultants, but they all had me using a nipple shield and pumping – basically feeding my daughter through that and a tube. It took a while before I could get her to latch without the use of that shield. I did A LOT of supplementing, but she loved to nurse and we would nurse everywhere. At a very young age, she stopped taking my pumped milk; she only liked it straight from the source. I always kept a cover with me.

Two years later and I’m pregnant and nursing. I tried tirelessly to wean her. She would put her two little hands on my face and plead with me, “PLEEEEASE, mommy!” I gave in. Sometimes the sensitivity from being pregnant and her wanting to nurse would bring me to tears. It was tough! Because of my history, I was having a c-section and I hoped that with me in the hospital a few days, she would forget all about chi-chi (Spanish slang for breast).

I was blessed with a third daughter. My mother – who was no longer admin personnel, but was now a trainer and so much more – was here for this birth. Though I had some complications and didn’t get to see my daughter right away, my mom was there supporting and helping me. When I came home from the hospital, my second daughter did not forget about chi-chi. How unfair it would have been with those little eyes and hands on my face again. So I ended up tandem nursing for a few months.

r-blog-20160203_073521Something I didn’t mention were the comments I heard… from family, including my husband. “She’s too big.” “She really needs to stop.” “She doesn’t need that anymore.” It was disheartening sometimes, but I never succumbed to the comments of others. I fed my babies. With my youngest, I nursed her anywhere and everywhere and I never carried a cover. I can feed my baby with the most minimal amount of skin showing. Every bra is a nursing bra and every shirt can be a nursing shirt. I got smart. Even after a big blow up with my mother-in-law about nursing in public, I was never deterred. My husband stood up for us gallantly. My youngest is now 4 and will still nurse. I’ve actually made two friends over the years, one who nursed her son until 3 and the other who nursed her daughter until 4.

Unfortunately, there will always be people out there who judge and might try to shame you. Just know that you are giving your child the very best! My children are some of the tallest in their classes. They rarely get sick and when they do, it’s for shorter periods of time than their peers. Moms of multiple children know that every child is different, just as every birth experience is different. If I see a mom nursing, I find it easy to make conversation because we have that in common. If I see a fussy baby, the first thing I think is: Give that baby some chi chi! I let moms know they don’t need to be shy to nurse!

I am a breastfeeding advocate.

 

r-blog-girlsWhile this story is for Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month, I know there are a multitude of other mothers who share in this experience, in this bond that we have as nursing moms. It’s easy to judge – but until you are there, you really don’t understand. I have no word except love to explain or comprehend why I have nursed this long – and especially if you have a child, that, I’m sure, you understand.

 

Cultivating Change: Laura

Latino-Hispanic Heritage Month 2016 is here, and HealthConnect One is honored to amplify the voices of our Hispanic and Latinx allies, as they share about changes they are making in their lives and communities.

¡Mes de la herencia Hispano / Latino  ya está aquí! Nos encantaría que te unas a nosotros para celebrar del 15 de Septiembre al 15 de Octubre de 2016.  Nuestro tema este año es el Cultivando Cambio: los Latinos y los Hispanos hablan acerca de un cambio personal y de su comunidad.

laura-1Hi. My name is Laura and I have been a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for 24 years.

In August of 1989, I found out I was pregnant. Along with all the flurries of emotions from family and friends going crazy with the prospect of a first baby in the family, I had one thought in mind: I was adamant I was going to breastfeed.

Now that may not sound radical to you these days but in 1989, I had no role models for breastfeeding. My mom was a product of the 60’s when formula was “better” than breast. None of my friends who had babies breastfed. Of all my cousins I talked to in Texas and Mexico (yes, Mexico), only one was breastfeeding her firstborn. On my in-laws’ side, they all said the same thing “my milk dried up after 3 months!” They weren’t very encouraging.

laura-bf_010None of that mattered to me, or that I was going to do this on my own, or that I didn’t know how to do it. I was going to do it, and I did.

I loved breastfeeding, my baby girl loved being breastfed, and I didn’t want to stop but I did. I buckled under the pressure of the non-stop judgement: “Oh, you still have milk?” or, “Do you think the baby is getting fed enough?” You all know the remarks. I stopped at 11 months. Neither of us was happy.

When my daughter was 18 months I met this woman at Alivio Medical Center in Pilsen. She asked if I wanted to be not just a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor (BPC), but be in the very first Spanish-speaking BPC group with the Chicago Breastfeeding Taskforce (now called HealthConnect One)! Of course I immediately said YES!!

Every week, I went to training until I got my certificate. I was so proud, and then came the hard part: What do I do with it?? During that time, there weren’t very many opportunities for employment. We all did a lot of volunteer work while we waited for hospitals and clinics to realize they needed us.

I loved volunteering at Cook County, helping all the new moms and giving them the support and help no one else was giving them. I went to meetings and conferences. The more I learned, the angrier I became that breastfeeding was not the norm. How the formula companies would manipulate moms into thinking their milk was not good enough! How no one really told us about all the wonderful and miraculous things breast milk contained.

laura-2Then one day, I was offered a job at W.I.C. as their first Spanish-speaking Breastfeeding Peer Counselor – with the first nursery, Spanish-only classes, and bi-lingual support groups in the state of Illinois. Huge responsibility! It was the proudest day of my professional life! I finally was able to share everything I knew about breastfeeding and help a lot of moms at the same time.

Believe me when I tell you that just because I worked with Latino mothers, that didn’t mean I had it easy; a lot of them were so influenced by their doctors and family to use formula since W.I.C. was “giving it for free”! But I did it!

I accomplished so much that year. One of my moms was on the “Cristina show” about breastfeeding, and not only was she breastfeeding for a year, but I had helped her start when the baby was 4 months old. One of my other mothers was chosen to be on a city-wide billboard even after her husband was not very thrilled about it. Even the smallest of victories — like having a mom breastfeed her 9th child when her husband was telling her not to — made my job so worthwhile!

Unfortunately, after a year, I was offered another job doing something very different and I left. Over the years, I never ever stopped being a BPC. I have consulted over the phone to Spain and Mexico. I’ve used Skype, texting & emailing, as well as the old-fashion face-to-face. For me, being a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor has always been a mission to make sure babies are given the best start possible … and to make sure moms are given the support the need with correct information to make the right choice for them.

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Cultivating Change: Emma Gonzales

Latino-Hispanic Heritage Month 2016 is here, and HealthConnect One is honored to amplify the voices of our Hispanic and Latinx allies, as they share about changes they are making in their lives and communities.

¡Mes de la herencia Hispano / Latino  ya está aquí! Nos encantaría que te unas a nosotros para celebrar del 15 de Septiembre al 15 de Octubre de 2016.  Nuestro tema este año es el Cultivando Cambio: los Latinos y los Hispanos hablan acerca de un cambio personal y de su comunidad.

 

emma-with-kids-2015A widowed mother of three children, Emma came to the United States in 1993. She enrolled in HealthConnect One (formerly Chicago Health Connection)’s breastfeeding peer counseling class in 1998, at the suggestion of her sister-in-law. Emma wanted to take this class to help others in her community, and in the ten-week course, she learned the basics of breastfeeding, how to advocate for new moms, and how to become a source of support when there is no one else to rely on.

She was surprised at what else she learned – in learning to advocate for others, she also began advocating for herself. “With this training, I learned to listen, pay attention, and speak up for myself and my kids. I want to be the best, because that’s what’s best for my kids. Breastfeeding helped me to be closer to my kids, and it taught me to be responsible for my future.”

A very shy person, Emma has never been shy of hard work. For years, she shared her wisdom, knowledge and support with breastfeeding moms in her community, and in March 2006, she returned to HealthConnect One for a Facilitator’s Workshop. This workshop was geared towards developing counselors into trainers, allowing them to reach a larger audience to make a broader impact. Here, Emma learned how to be more open with her feelings and voice her opinions in a very diverse group. She ended this class feeling more confident, and decided to run for a very competitive seat on her local school council. Within a week, Emma was elected to serve on the No Child Left Behind committee at her school.

She was making her impact!

emma-with-kids-graduationSlowly, quietly, and with great determination, Emma had become a local community leader, advocating in a new way for the healthy development of children. “The Facilitator’s Workshop helped me to be more open and secure with myself. The workshop helped more than anything I ever did. I don’t want to always be behind. I want to be ahead. is something important in my life and has given me the opportunity to do all these things.”

HealthConnect One trains community health workers, but more than that – HC One trains community advocates, women and men who strengthen their own communities by drawing on their own strengths, making one connection at a time. It is this connectedness that translates into effectiveness.

Emma worked for WIC awhile and ten years later, although no longer with WIC, she continues to provide peer counseling to new moms in her community. She wants her neighbors, family and friends to have the same experience she had with her children, and she hopes all mothers will realize the impact of bonding through breastfeeding. She says, “ taught me to open my eyes and my mind.”

HC One may have given her the tools to find her own power, but the power has always been hers.

As she continues to quietly nurture her community, Emma becomes a symbol of strength and independence – not only to her children – but to us all.

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